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EPA to postpone exterior renovation rule by three years
September 13, 2012

Posted by Matt Dempsey

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EPA to postpone exterior renovation rule by three years

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012

U.S. EPA today is postponing lead rules for exterior renovations of commercial buildings by about three years.

The agency had originally planned to issue a proposal on exterior renovation for public and commercial buildings by the end of this week. The exterior rule was set to be finalized in February 2014.

But according to correspondence between EPA and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), EPA has extended that schedule.

The legal agreement, reached earlier this month but previously unreported, shows EPA has decided to merge its exterior Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, or LRRP, with its interior regulations, which are set to be proposed in July 2015 and finalized in January 2017.

The LRRP rule, finalized in April 2010, is designed to protect vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women from lead exposure. EPA banned lead from residences in 1978, and the rule requires contractors to be certified in lead-safe practices before conducting renovations.

Applying the certification requirements to commercial buildings has sparked controversy. Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that the certification process is costly and may be unnecessary for instances where there is little risk of exposure to the potent neurotoxin, such as the exterior of buildings.

EPA reserves the right not to issue the regulations if it determines the renovation activities don't create a health hazard.

The agency was unable to comment at press time.

Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has introduced legislation (S. 2148) that would not allow EPA to expand the rule to commercial or public buildings while creating an exemption for renovations after a natural disaster (E&ENews PM, March 2).

The Republican, who has been critical of how EPA has implemented the rule, applauded the agency's agreement, saying that it shows EPA is "responding to congressional oversight ... in a thoughtful, reasonable manner."

"I have always supported the intention of this rule, which is to protect children and expectant mothers from the potential hazards of lead paint dust, but this rule must be applied in a way in which people can actually comply so that the full health benefits can be realized," Inhofe said.

Inhofe also welcomed EPA's decision to hold public information meetings this winter to seek input from a small-business advocacy review panel.

The decision will likely anger public health advocates, who have criticized EPA for not moving more swiftly with the LRRP regulations. Last year, EPA backed away from a proposed rule that would have required contractors to test dust after renovations to ensure there wasn't any lead contamination remaining -- sparking significant criticism from green groups (Greenwire, July 18, 2011).

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